Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dissertation Blues

"An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with, insists on boring future generations." - Charles de Montesquieu

So, I haven't blogged in a week.  Has it really been that long?  Yes, I guess it has.  Geez.

Sorry, folks.  Been busy, though.  I'm quite nearly done with my dissertation, and that "quite nearly" is a real bitch to say.  It's somewhere in between "I'm working on my dissertation," which isn't bad 'cause it tells people you're a cool scholarly sort of dude and nearly always results in "what is it on?" which is a polite way of saying "please, make me eat my own wrist out of boredom" that's almost always followed by "wow, look at the time," and "I'm done with my dissertation," which is a nice way of saying "dammit, my student loans will come due quite soon now."  But being quite nearly done is like being at a busy bar when the bartender is quite nearly close enough to take your drink request but insists instead on talking with the pretty girl a few seats down.  It's a matter of being oh, so close you can taste it, but you still have to stay up till God Himself is already in bed laughing at your sorry hardworking tush, your fingers banging out the most boring adjective- and adverb-less verbiage--no one with sense would call it "prose"--that can possibly be created in our language. Or, for that matter, any language that I know of. 

Okay, since you didn't ask but I'm going to pretend you did, I'm studying career college faculty's propensity to participate in shared governance.  In other words, college is one of the few places where the inmates are fully expected to get to run the asylum, unless they're career colleges that are run like businesses where faculty are the assembly line workers.  So I'm doing a "descriptive quantitative study" in which I posted a survey online and asked all the career college faculty I could find 36 questions.  Well, technically, the survey had 36 statements which faculty would respond to according to a Likert scale: "Strongly Agree," "Agree," "Neutral," "Disagree," "BiteMyAss," "IHateSurveys," and "Strongly Disagree."  Except that a couple of those I just made up. I'll let you guess which ones.

The trick, then, was for me to "numericize" the responses--in other words, turn every "Strongly Agree" into a 5, every "Agree" into a 4, every "BiteMyAss" into a deletion, etc.--and then run "central tendencies" (e.g., mean and standard deviation).  I also asked the "members of the population" things like what type of faculty they were (adjunct versus full-time) and what kind of institution they worked at and for how long, etc.  I calculated those all to hell, too.  Then I've spent the past several weeks going through compiling the numbers and trying to say stuff that sounds smart, things like "Respondents agreed (M = 3.33, SD = 1.017) with the second item, 'Faculty committees have sufficient involvement with administration.'"

I know, I actually used three adjectives in that bit, but even those were boring.

Sorry if I seem hostile, but after writing three works of fiction, scholarly writing nearly puts me to sleep.  When I'm writing it, that is.  Even after 3--no, three, per the APA--pots of coffee. 

But I'm quite nearly done, which means I'm working on the very last chapter in which I explain what all I learned and what I suggest for future study.  Except that now my mentor says that I need to do more numbers.  It's not, she explained, a "real" quantitative dissertation unless I do more than just means and variances; I should consider doing ANOVA and/or regression analysis.  

Eek.  I couldn't recall what the hell ANOVA stood for, much less how to do one.  Or it.  Or some.  Or--whatever.   

That's okay, though.  What has been learned once can be learned again, and I found a wonderful site ( with videos not only on how to workie the magic in Excel, but that also actually explains what everything is.  Variances?  No prob.  Residuals?  Got 'em.  No, I'm serious; watch the videos and you won't ever have to tell someone "but I don't know what kurtosis and skew are" again.  At least not till the information leaks out, as all statistical knowledge seems to for me.

So back my nose goes to the ole' grindstone.   I'll get back to fiction, I promise, but first I must work some freakin' ANOVA magic.  

And no, contrary to popular rumor, I'm not really going to write "I checked for homoscedasticity because my mentor told me I needed more fucking numbers" anywhere in it.  I promise.


1 comment:

  1. Doing a descriptive quantitative study can really be hard, and dealing with it in a tedious and long dissertation writing can make it a bit harder. It just good to know that you know how to write a phd dissertation properly. Some people might know but they still face a blank wall every once in a while. Anyway, what happened to your dissertation project?